Kent Thiesse 1

June 18, 2013

3 Min Read

For decades in Minnesota, June has been known as Dairy Month. Following are some interesting facts and figures about the dairy industry:

  • The June Dairy Month promotion of dairy products has been in existence since 1939.

  • There are approximately 53,000 dairy farms and 500 milk processing plants in the U.S., with dairy farms in all 50 states.

  • 99% of U.S. dairy farms are family-owned farm businesses.

  • The average dairy farm in the U.S. has approximately 135 cows.

  • U.S. dairy farms are producing three times more milk today, as compared to 1960, with about half the number of dairy cows, reducing the total resources needed by the dairy industry.

  • The average dairy cow produces approximately 6.5 gal. of milk/day, or about 2,300 gal. of milk/year.

  • It typically takes two days for milk to reach grocery shelves from the time it leaves the farm.

  • 70% of the calcium needs of the U.S. population are supplied by milk and dairy products.

  • A dairy farmer receives about $1.70/gal. for milk produced, which is approximately 40% of the amount paid for milk by consumers at the grocery store (approx. $4.20/gal.).

  • The U.S. dairy industry contributes less than 2% of the total “greenhouse gasses” into the environment, and has reduced it’s “carbon footprint” by 60% in past six decades.

Following are some interesting facts from the Minnesota Ag Statistics Service regarding Minnesota’s Dairy Industry:

  • In 2012, there were over 4,000 dairy farms, and approximately 465,000 milk cows, in Minnesota. The number of dairy cows in Minnesota has remained fairly steady in recent years, with a slight increase in total production.

  • In 2011, Minnesota ranked sixth in U.S. dairy production, producing about 9 billion pounds of milk, which represents approximately 5% of the total U.S. milk production.

  • The top-five dairy producing states in U.S. were California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho and Pennsylvania, with California producing nearly 40 billion pounds of milk per year, followed by Wisconsin with an annual production level of 25 billion pounds/year.

  • The average production per dairy cow in Minnesota was 18,996 lbs. of milk/cow in 2011, which is below many of the other top dairy production states in the U.S.

  • Minnesota dairy production generates the second-largest amount of annual cash receipts of all livestock species in Minnesota, trailing only the state’s hog production for total receipts.

  • Stearns County is the top dairy-producing county in Minnesota, which produces more than twice as much milk per year as Winona County, the second place county. Other top producing counties are Morrison, Wabasha, Otter Tail and Goodhue.

  • The fastest growing Minnesota county in dairy production is Stevens County in west-central Minnesota, due to the initiation of some larger dairy operations, which now ranks seventh in total number of dairy cows, with 18,100 cows in 2012.

  • Minnesota exported nearly $200 million of dairy products in 2008, with Mexico and Canada being the top export customers, and the top dairy export products being dry and condensed milk, cheese and butter.

  • The Minnesota dairy industry utilizes about 21% of the corn fed to livestock in the state, or approximately 3% of Minnesota’s total annual corn production, and about 15% of the total soybean meal produced in the state, as well as a large amount of the alfalfa produced.

  • The dairy production and processing industry is the second largest agricultural business in Minnesota, generating approximately $5.6 billion/year, with a total economic impact to the state of about $11.5 billion, or about $25,000/dairy cow.

  • The Minnesota dairy industry supports over 38,000 jobs in Minnesota.

The dairy industry has undergone many changes and economic challenges in the past couple of decades, but remains a very viable industry for many producers and processors. A strong, vibrant, and profitable dairy industry is very important toward building a healthy economic future for Minnesota and the nation.


Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Kent Thiesse 1

Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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